Going Batty in Houston - Rabies on the Rise
Earlier this year in Houston, Texas, a bat flew into the home of
16-year-old Zach Jones while he was asleep. Zach woke up when he felt the
bat brush against his face. After the bat was caught and released
outside, Zach thought everything was fine. About a month after the bat
incident, Zach felt sick and went to the hospital. On May 12, he
died...of rabies. Zach is the only person known
to have died of rabies in the United States in 2006.
Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that attacks cells of the nervous
system. If rabies is not treated, it is usually fatal.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the number of
bats around Houston grew after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In 2006,
experts have found 57 bats around the area that have tested positive for
rabies; only 28 bats tested positive in all of 2005.
How Can Rabies Be Prevented?
- Stay away from wild animals: if you go on hikes
in the woods, do not pet or feed any animals you meet. Remember, bites
and scratches can transmit rabies.
- Stay away from stray animals: you do not know if
these animals have been vaccinated against rabies.
- Discourage pests that may carry rabies: cover your
trash cans and don't leave pet food outside for wild animals to get.
- Make sure your pets are vaccinated against rabies:
effective vaccines are available for dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, cattle
and sheep. The number of cases of animal rabies in pets and domesticated
animals has been reduced since the 1950s when vaccination of these types
of animals started. Rabies in wild animals is still high.
- Get yourself vaccinated: if you will be working or
traveling in an area where you may encounter rabid animals (e.g., a
veterinary office, wilderness, virus laboratory), you might consider
- Call the animal control office: if you see an animal
References and more information:
- Hart, L., After Rabies Death, Dark Days for Bats, Los
Angeles Times, August 14, 2006.
- Rabies - Neuroscience for Kids
Copyright © 1996-2006, Eric H. Chudler All Rights Reserved.